Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Single Mother's Manifesto

Subtitle: I *heart* JK Rowling

In which the author of Harry Potter takes Mr David Cameron, Conservative Leader in the UK, to task for his policies on single parents; policies which are quite similar to the approach John Key and Paula Bennett are advocating in New Zealand.

Here's a snippet:
I had become a single mother when my first marriage split up in 1993. In one devastating stroke, I became a hate figure to a certain section of the press, and a bogeyman to the Tory Government. Peter Lilley, then Secretary of State at the DSS, had recently entertained the Conservative Party conference with a spoof Gilbert and Sullivan number, in which he decried “young ladies who get pregnant just to jump the housing list”. The Secretary of State for Wales, John Redwood, castigated single-parent families from St Mellons, Cardiff, as “one of the biggest social problems of our day”. (John Redwood has since divorced the mother of his children.) Women like me (for it is a curious fact that lone male parents are generally portrayed as heroes, whereas women left holding the baby are vilified) were, according to popular myth, a prime cause of social breakdown, and in it for all we could get: free money, state-funded accommodation, an easy life.

An easy life. Between 1993 and 1997 I did the job of two parents, qualified and then worked as a secondary school teacher, wrote one and a half novels and did the planning for a further five. For a while, I was clinically depressed. To be told, over and over again, that I was feckless, lazy — even immoral — did not help.
Click through to read the whole thing.

Wasn't it John Key who claimed some women on the DPB were "breeding for a business"? And someone pointed out to me recently that had Ruth Richardson had her way with benefits in the early 1990s, Paula Bennett would had to give her child up for adoption*? Compassion FAIL from the Tories, both here and abroad.

Bonnet tipped to Sophia Blair, via Facebook.

* The quote from Richardson, which was in the Dominion Sunday Times on March 20th 1988, reads: "If the 16 year old engages in sexual adventure and there’s an unintended pregnancy, she has to make choices. If she chooses to have an keep the child that must be a family decision. A 16 year old is a dependent child, not an independent adult. If her family doesn’t want her and if she is not able to get her partner (who is liable to be the same age) to support her economically, she must look at other choices, which is adoption. That is not a forced choice, it’s the choice young women made before the domestic purposes benefit was available as of a right."


Anonymous said...

This bit is particularly lovely:

" I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism."

A Nonny Moose said...

I toyed with delving into the comments section, but after about two pages, I figured the majority of criticism against her would be coming from middle class white dudes.

I especially like (as in feeling stabby like) the cries of hypocrisy thrown at her.

KimV said...

I never rated her Harry Potter books that highly but when it comes to stuff like her Harvard Commencement Address and articles like this, I am just full of admiration. More power to her pen!

Lucy said...

I especially like (as in feeling stabby like) the cries of hypocrisy thrown at her.

Because, let me guess, how dare she become financially successful and still endorse the welfare state when she should be kicking the ladder away?

sas said...

thank you for publishing this. truly a brilliant polemic.

i am currently witnessing the uk general election first hand. the absence of senior women in 'speaking roles' is alarmingly few and far between. harriet harman is the deputy leader, yet she is relegated to local constituent politics, while more junior men take on the media directly. and thats in the labour party!

the press only seem interested in the leaders wives. its all horribly bland and familiar. le sigh.

i do wonder what would happen if women like jk rowling stood for parliament.

Anonymous said...

Agree with KimV that JK Rowling's Harvard Commencement Address and this current article leave me with nothing but admiration for Rowling.
But must disagree with KimV on the Harry Potter books. I didn't read them when they came out, but have now read them to my five and seven year old (the five year old was four when we started reading them). My kids adore Harry Potter, especially the audio books. After finishing all the books and audio books, I thought the next best option was the Hobbit which I loved as a child. The Hobbit is nothing compared to Harry Potter, the former is full of arcane language and a plodding plot. The Harry Potter series is brilliant. Sure JK Rowling has borrowed lots of motifs and ideas from others, including Tolkien's invisibility instrument - but she has done it with exceeding style and perfectly pitched to children (and many adults).